Do you want to spend a really interesting couple of hours in a Paris museum? Of course, you would! Therefore, Paris’s Musée de la Préfecture de Police – the Police Museum – is the place for you. The museum in Paris’s 5th arrondissement (district) looks quite antisocial when standing in front of No. 4 rue […]

Guillotine blade from French Revolution (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

 Do you want to spend a really interesting couple of hours in a Paris museum?

Of course, you would!

Therefore, Paris’s Musée de la Préfecture de Police – the Police Museum – is the place for you.

The museum in Paris’s 5th arrondissement (district) looks quite antisocial when standing in front of No. 4 rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. Probably because of the presence of the heavily-armed police who will ask you to put whatever you are carrying down on a table, to empty your pockets, and spread your arms for a frisk.

 But, rest assured, the building of which you will see a photo below, is, in fact, not the museum, but the headquarters of the police of Paris’s 5th district. The museum is on the building’s 3rd floor. (Each of the capital’s 20 districts has its own police headquarters – préfecture de police.)

Paris Police Museum (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

The museum is free which is unusual for a museum in Paris these days, but even if there were an entry fee, the museum would still be so well worth a visit.

Once inside the building, all you need to do is to tell the receptionist that you have come to visit the museum. There is a lift to the third floor or you can always speed up the stairs, two or three steps at a time, as police intend to do. Well, they do have to show off their fitness!

The museum consists of four rooms.

In the first of these you will be able to learn about the history of the police. It has always been the room I’ve found most uninteresting (I’ve visited the museum several times and I will down below explain why). You will see wax mannequins (dummies) dressed in police uniforms of the past.

Paris’s Police Museum: history of the police (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

In the next room you will learn all about the guillotine.  And – it is in this room where the only guillotine to be seen in Paris is on display. Also on display is the blade of a guillotine and this one was used during the French Revolution. It is not stipulated, but it might well be the one used to chop off Marie Antoinette’s head!

Guillotine in Paris’s Police Museum (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)


The next room is about crime detection and about Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914), policeman and biometrics researcher who developed a system, ‘anthropometrical signalment’ or ‘Bertillonage’ which is to measure the human body to identify recidivist criminals, and which led to both fingerprinting and the mugshot.  Bertillonage also involved the measuring of the middle finger which would lead to fingerprinting.

Paris Police Museum: Bertillon room (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Paris Police Museum (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)


The next and last room is about notorious criminals.

One you can learn about is Mata Hari, the Dutch exotic dancer who in WW1 spied for the Germans and who the French executed by firing squad in 1917.

Another is Henri Désiré Landru guillotined in 1922 for the murder of 11 people – 10 of them widows he had befriended to kill them for their possessions, and the 11th was the son of one of the women.

And there is also Dr Marcel Petiot, WW2 Serial Killer, the subject of my book DIE IN PARIS.

Die in Paris by Marilyn Z. Tomlins, published in 2013

Dr Petiot was guillotined on Saturday, May 25, 1946 for the murder of 26 people although the police chief thought that, judging by the amount of human remains found at his Paris townhouse, he had slaughtered about 200 people. ‘To be on the safe side, I will settle for 150,’ the police chief had said.

Petiot, a Paris doctor, had pretended to be the head of a Resistance Cell which helped people to escape from German-occupied France. He had charged them enormous fees but the escape route was bogus as indeed was the Resistance Cell – Fly Tox – he claimed to be the head of.

Dr Marcel Petiot in court on trial for murder

How he had murdered his victims the police could not establish – remember this was at a time when pathology was still in its infancy – but after death he had cut them up to destroy the remains by fire or quicklime.

You can see several items from the murder house – No. 27 rue le Sueur, Paris 16 – in the museum. Above I refer to having visited the museum several times, and this was during my research for my book.

Seventy-two years after the end of the Second World War, Petiot remains France’s most prolific serial killer.

The museum is open weekdays from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The metro line to the museum is No. 10 and the stop for the museum is Maubert-Mutualite.

You can buy my book – DIE IN PARIS – from all Amazon’s websites. The book was published by Ravencrest Books of the United Kingdom.

Paris Police Museum : All about Petiot (cc Marilyn Z.tomlins)

Paris Police Museum: Petiot spied on his victims using this ‘Judas’ (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)



Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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February 2018
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